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When a brand considers making changes to its logo it often creates concern among those responsible for such alterations. After all, a logo is the visual representation that personifies the business’ mission and culture. Instant, visual recognition of a company’s product or service can be a valuable marketing tool that advances brand awareness without the utterance of a single word or paragraph of content. An image can indeed be worth more than a thousand words. Even so, many successful and iconic brand images may go decades without alteration, following a strategy that fixing what isn’t broken may not be the best idea.
The National Basketball League (NBA) has left its brand logo virtually untouched since it was last redesigned in 1969. Created by Alex Siegal, the current logo is rumored to depict a silhouette image of former NBA star Jerry West. A league and sport-defining basketball star, West was celebrated on and off the court as an individual who represented the best character traits as well as for his ability to rack up impressive game statistics. The Hall of Famer recently expressed interest in stepping away from being the identity of the ghost image. “I don’t like to do anything to call attention to myself, and when people say that, it’s just not who I am, period,” West said. “If they would want to change it, I wish they would. In many ways, I wish they would,” West said in an interview in 2016.
A sports franchise is different in many ways from those franchises where sameness is lauded and individuality is discouraged among individual franchisees. Each of the 30 teams of the NBA maintains its own brand image that expresses the team’s individuality and represents the uniqueness of its community of fans. The recent tragic death of Kobe Bryant, a giant of popularity in a new era of professional basketball, is bringing the NBA logo redesign discussion to the forefront. A petition to change the NBA’s logo to feature a silhouette of Kobe Bryant has received more than three million online signatures.
The goal of the petition’s originators is to have 4.5 million signatures of widespread support from NBA fans. While such overwhelming support is difficult to ignore, some believe that the league executives will be reluctant to single-out one player from one team to represent the whole of the league, no matter the elevated reputation of that player. The league may elect to take another path to recognize and immortalize Kobe Bryant’s importance to the game and his community. There are clearly millions of those who mourn the loss of Bryant, his daughter and friends involved in the accident that claimed all their lives, but identifying the entirety of the league of 30 teams and hundreds of players to one individual may not be a step the league’s management may want to take.
The NBA’s 30 teams generated a $8.8 billion in revenue last season, up 10% over the previous year, resulting in the average NBA team being worth $1.9 billion. Some believe that the brand that represents the whole of the individual team members should reflect those members’ collective missions and cultures. The weight of public opinion is always difficult to ignore but the immediate response to a tragedy is an emotional one and the importance of changing the NBA’s iconic logo requires a thoughtful and objective consideration based on clearer criteria. Regardless of the League’s decision, controversy will certainly follow.